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The Changing Channel

The 'Hybrid Everything' Problem

Step aside, "cloud." "Hybrid" is the latest tech buzzword to lack a clear definition -- and in today's BYOD era, that's an issue.

Get used to it.

If you think you're sick and tired of hearing the word "cloud," well hang on for "hybrid." As if passing the baton, "public cloud" and "private cloud" have joined forces (in a kind of techy three-way with "on-prem") to quietly create the concept of the hybrid cloud. Sneaky. Don't look now, but literally everything is now hybrid.

I mean, even if everything weren't hybrid, we'd all start calling everything hybrid because nobody is really sure anymore what is a public cloud, what is a private cloud and why it really matters. If you have your network on-premises, with a private cloud server for your own docs, and your people shop on Amazon -- bingo, you have a hybrid environment.

Hybrid Networks
Not enough IT managers are aware that we are in the midst of transitioning from the IPv4 Internet addressing scheme (whose 4.3 billion IP addresses have been exhausted) to IPv6 (whose addresses are virtually unlimited). For at least the next decade, we'll all be using tunneling or other technologies to exist on hybrid IPv4/IPv6 networks.

But the hybridity doesn't end there!

Once upon a time, there was the personal computer. Then someone stuck a handle on one and called it a luggable computer. This quickly gave way to the laptop computer. Many years passed, and there was the handheld or palmtop computer, sometimes called the PDA for "personal digital assistant." A few more years and we received the tablet. No, not the one with the Ten Commandments. The one with the touchscreen commands.

OK, so up until then, it was pretty easy to tell the players even without a scorecard. It was what it was. Laptops may have been used as desktop replacements, but they were never considered to be desktops, or even a "missing link" between the two.

BYOD Brings 'Brid
I'm going to credit our dear friend Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix, for being the first one to talk about how people wanted to "live, work and play" on the same device. Templeton was also the prescient genius who foresaw "server-based computing" before everyone else, as well as "thin client," so I feel pretty comfortable and confident suggesting that he saw it first.

What Templeton may not have envisioned was that people might want pieces of their single device to fall away as they weren't needed. It's really a form-factor issue. People who like to read on their tablets don't necessarily want to deal with a keyboard. Microsoft's Surface lets you instantly rip the keyboard off the bottom of the thing. Apple doesn't bother with one at all but offers a Bluetooth one, and third-party solutions abound. HP's new ElitePad has a "smart jacket " that adds a keyboard and ports to the tablet.

Don't look now, folks, but these are all hybrids. Hybrids between a tablet and a laptop computer. The big thing in tablets this year are tablets that run Windows 8 like the ElitePad. Banks around the world are developing mobile banking solutions to run under Windows 8 in anticipation of this.

But Wait, There's Less!
So let's swing around 180 degrees, pivoting around the tablet and heading down to the smartphone. Everyone finds smartphones to be excellent for making calls, naturally, but many people now turn to their smartphone to read e-mails before they would look to their laptops or other devices. It's just more convenient. But since the devices are so small, they don't all feel very comfortable for creating written, spreadsheet or presentation work.

This challenge has given rise to the iPad mini, the Samsung Galaxy Note and many other form factors that are smaller than a tablet but bigger than a smartphone. Hybrids. Hybrids between smartphone and tablet.

The Answer Is in How You Answer
Here's my bet. As long as people retain the paradigm that a phone is something you must hold to your ear, the phone-tablet hybrid issue will remain. Once people become accustomed to the idea of wearing a Bluetooth ear piece or some other wireless in-the-ear technology that actually works consistently, the smartphone is dead, replaced by a somewhat larger form factor that can also accommodate a similarly wireless keyboard.

Coach, Kenneth Cole, kate spade and others will find a whole new market in computerized communications carry-all clutches that will accommodate the device, the keyboard, the earpiece and maybe a recharger. Perhaps we won't even call it a hybrid anymore. Maybe we'll call it a Dynabook or a PDA. Just not a hybrid.

The Commons at WPC should be a great place to go on your hybrid hunt. Let me know what you find!

About the Author

Howard M. Cohen is a consultant to IT vendors and channel partner companies and a board member of the U.S. chapter of the IAMCP. Reach him at hmc@hmcwritenow.com.

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